Native Gardener’s Corner—Member’s Tips, Tricks, and Techniques

This column is a regular newsletter feature offering chapter members and local experts a chance to briefly share information on many things related to gardening with natives.

This issue’s question was “Which native plant will you “never” plant in your garden and why?” Answers listed in order received.

Alison Shilling-“Leymus triticoides: this is because I have a small yard and want something else besides L. triticoides. It needs a meadow-sized piece of land—it spreads by both runners and seeds.”
Ron Vanderhoff-“A while ago I planted a single 4” pot of Ambrosia pumila in a sandy area with some Dudleyas and other coastal plants. It’s a federally endangered little thing with small grey foliage and a tiny stature. It is native to only a couple of spots in San Diego County and since it’s barely holding own in the wild and it’s “pumila”, I expected a mild little edging plant. However, soon after it settled in I found it spreading underground all over, even popping up several feet away. Fortunately, I reacted swiftly. Endangered or not, it’s been extirpated from my garden.”

Mike Evans-“I would never plant Lotus scoparius, because I believe it has a new name that I refuse to learn. I would simply die of embarrassment when my CNPS friends would come to visit... silly me, pointing out the many virtues of my lovely deerweed, and calling it by it's "old" name. I couldn't bare the shame.”

Laura Camp-“Nassella pulchra (Purple needlegrass) looked pretty the first year, but after that it became the bane of my garden, spreading everywhere, with needle-like awns that covered garden gloves. After six years I have most of it weeded out.”

Ron Jones-“Northern Willow Herb (Epilobium adenacaulon): I received two of these plants as “hitchhikers” in pots from a reputable native plant nursery. I had never seen nor heard of this plant and it was a while before a tiny bloom appeared and made identification possible. Because it was an unusual plant I let it mature and bear tiny-tiny seeds carried by a feathery plume. This spring I had hundreds of Willow Herbs growing everywhere in my sizeable yard. I am working diligently to pull each of these pesky plants to avoid a take-over next season.” (Note from Dan: A survey of the new Jepson shows this plant is no longer considered to be native.)

Bob Allen-“I will never plant a coastal redwood or a giant redwood. Neither perform well in my part of Orange County; it's just too hot and dry here. Plus, my soil is 100% sand. Many of those that are planted here by others struggle for 10-20 years, develop a split crown, then die a horrible death.”

Mike and Cathie Field-“We would never never plant Ambrosia pumila, San Diego Ragweed, again. It is extremely invasive; we have been trying to get rid of it for about 3 months now. A very poor choice for the home garden.”

Sarah Jayne-“There are a number of native plants that I would not include in my garden for one reason or another, but there is one that I will NEVER plant—again—anywhere: Aster chilensis. I did not know of its evil habits when it went into the school garden that I manage. In 3 years, it has invaded the entire garden, its rhizomes forming dense mats that are really tough to remove. The first year, it was lovely, but now it blooms only sporadically. Where it does bloom, spent flowers sit unattractively for weeks if not sheered off.

Rob Moore-“As far as popular garden plants go, I typically avoid the aggressive spreaders such as Romneya coulteri (Matilija Poppy) and Leymus condensatus 'Canyon Prince'. An exception (because they are so popular) would be to use them in an enclosed area, or if one has lots of space and is willing to perform regular maintenance to keep them at bay.”

Christiane Shannon-“Sorry, I know of no native plant that I would never plant in my garden. There are a few that are invasive either by roots or seeds but they are manageable…”

Rama Nayeri-“Epilobium (CA Fuchsia). I planted it at a client’s garden in Fountain Valley and because she never took care of her garden IT grew like a weed and took over her front yard.”

Celia Kutcher-“Since my native garden is intended to demonstrate that our local Coastal Sage Scrub can be an attractive home landscape, I'll never plant any of the species that grow only in Chaparral or are from more northerly parts of the state.”

Dan Songster-“I am willing to try plants most would shudder at, but one native that is a giant weed comes to mind that I will not plant again—Fremont Poplar. Its aggressive root system heaves concrete, invades drainage and irrigation lines, and out competes everything in the garden. It is wonderful in a desert wash, but in my garden it has become a huge bully that is almost impossible to successfully remove.”

Thanks to all who responded! Next issue’s question: What native do you grow for fall color?Email your responses to Dan Songster at . Please remember to keep replies brief so we can include most of the responses!

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